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Countdown to Army Chief`s retirement begins

Gen Singh, after over 40 years of service, will turn 62 May 10 as per his service record and retire May 31, paving way for army chief-designate Lt Gen Bikram Singh to take over the reins.

New Delhi: The countdown to Indian Army Chief Gen VK Singh hanging up his boots May 31 began on Saturday with his first farewell visit to the Western Command headquarters in Chandimandir.

The General will be in Chandimandir till Sunday before returning to Delhi Monday, sources in the Army headquarters said here.

It is customary for Army chiefs and top commanders to go on farewell visits to key formations before their retirement when they get the opportunity to interact with troopers and officers.

Gen Singh, after over 40 years of service, will turn 62 May 10 as per his service record and retire May 31, paving way for army chief-designate Lt Gen Bikram Singh to take over the reins of the 1.13-million-strong Indian Army.

The 22-month tenure of Gen VK Singh, which began March 31, 2010, has been acrimonious over his attempts to get his birth date amended in service records, for which he even dragged the central government to the Supreme Court in January this year.

He could not succeed in getting the court to rule in his favour and had to contend with his birth date in service records remaining May 10, 1950 instead of May 10, 1951.

However, the government and the court refrained from questioning the veracity of his other records such as birth certificate, school leaving certificate, and passport that maintain his birth date as May 10,1951.

If the plea had been accepted, it would have given the general another 10 months as army chief and he would have retired in March 2013.

This would have upset the chain of succession in the army, which is decided on the basis of seniority at the time of the incumbent chief`s superannuation.

Just ahead of his plea before the court, Gen. Singh, during his press conference January 14 on the eve of Army Day, had said that he "did not know" if this was his last Army Day as the chief.

He did not have to wait long. In March, the army issued him a retirement warning letter and within a week, the government named Lt Gen Bikram Singh, the Kolkata-based eastern Army commander, as his successor.

However, the tumult in Gen VK Singh`s tenure as chief did not end with the age row.

He dropped a bombshell during an interview that he was offered by a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear a deal for 600 Tatra trucks by a retired army officer and that he had informed Defence Minister AK Antony about it.

This rocked the Parliament and Antony had to order a CBI probe into the allegations, apart from giving an explanation.

As if this was not enough came a media report claiming that the general might have mobilised two key Army units from Hisar and Agra towards New Delhi on the intervening night of January 16/17 this year.

The report dropped hints that it might have been a coup attempt that was thwarted by an alert government. The report was dismissed by the government and the army.

Since then, the cold vibes in corridors of South Block, seat of the defence ministry, seems to have come down.


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